Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Morning After: Cardinals 27, Cowboys 26

I can certainly take or leave the NFL Network's game presentation, and to be completely honest, I take most of what Matt Millen says with a grain of salt. But, he did say something during the Cardinals game that struck me as nothing short of profound as the Cowboys lost their 10th game of the season;

He quoted his college coach, the legendary Joe Paterno, by saying, "he used to say that if we would pay attention to the little details, the big details will take care of themselves".

Wow. If only he was addressing the Dallas Cowboys at training camp in 2010.

The little details....Let's see here...

* Miles Austin slips coming out of his break. Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie does not, Interception is returned for a Touchdown and the Cowboys are behind early.

* Roy Williams senses a linebacker out of the corner of his eye, loses focus on the football, the ball bounces off of his shoulder, and the Cowboys have another simple pass returned for another Touchdown.

* Marion Barber, so excited to be a part of an explosive run that turned into an impressive Touchdown, loses his mind and takes off his helmet on the field of play - thus deflating a huge Touchdown with an unnecessary mistake.

* David Buehler shows just how consistently inconsistent he really is by ruining his strong kicking night by missing an extra point at exactly the wrong time - thus deflating a huge Touchdown with an unnecessary mistake.

* Orlando Scandrick misses John Skelton by a split second on a corner blitz and Skelton hooks up with the equally anonymous Max Komar to set up Jay Feely for the winning FG - thus proving that the defense cannot get a stop when it matters most.

How do you out-gain your opponent by 115 yards, out possess them by 17 minutes, and out snap them by 29 plays and lose?

The truth can be found in the little details.

In 2010, the little details have cancelled out a team that will once again have some very impressive statistics that will all combine to signify exactly nothing.

So, as we see Jerry Jones in the locker-room again, claiming to be "mad as hell", and appearing to have steam coming out of his ears, we can only wonder if it occurs to him the relation between attention to detail and the way the Cowboys prepare for their seasons. I know I will be considering all of this next time we hear that the Cowboys are going to have the odd "traveling training camp" so that the Cowboys can maximize their marketing and sponsorship opportunities all over the map.

Training Camp matters. Practice matters. Accountability matters. Discipline matters. All of the things that Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, and yes, Bill Parcells believed matter, surely prove that they do.

I would never suggest that those men always got everything right, but as we continue to audition Jason Garrett, I cannot help but watch this team and wonder if they have the type of "Football IQ" that is required for success in the NFL. Garrett, obviously thought that Jones and Wade Phillips were nuts not to demand more physical practices because the second he was named coach, he changed that. You can bet your bottom dollar that if he gets the chance, he will dramatically change training camp.

Of course, if you believe what you hear, one of the main reasons training camp was as "non-physical" as anyone can ever remember was because Dez Bryant was injured in camp and Jerry freaked out about losing players in Late July/Early August and reprimanded the coaches for taking too many risks.

And that led to what became a training camp that had 3 all-pads, all-contact practices in the entire preseason. 3! About the same number Landry and Johnson would have on Monday and Tuesday of Week 1 of their camps.

Now, the 2010 Cowboys have more excessive celebration penalties that relevant Touchdowns. They are among the league leaders in penalties. They have veterans who bail out on plays because they are scared to get hit. They have a defense that quit for about 3 games this season. And they have that same defense that is back to trying, but they concede crucial 4th Quarter drives on a routine basis.

Isn't there a correlation? Don't we see the relation between relaxed accountability, discipline, preparation in the organization this summer and some of the Looney Tunes Football we have seen this season?

And now, Jerry is "mad as hell"? Forgive me, but I don't really want to hear it from him. Words don't matter to me anymore from the man who is responsible for a team that is guilty of so many fundamental issues.

I need actions. If it was my mistake to have such a silly non-competition for the kicker position, I believe I wouldn't waste time telling us how mad you are. I might do something about it. What exactly did you think was going to happen when you named Buehler the kicker without being opposed? Same goes for a defense that looks like physical football wears it down late in games. Same for an offensive line that never left the starting blocks when it comes to winning its individual battles at the point of attack.

In fact, next time I have the choice between an unorthodox training camp agenda that borders on more marketing and less football, I might put in a tape of the Redskins, Bears, Titans, Jaguars, Packers, or Cardinals games from the 2010 season.

That should cure you.

The big details have never been a problem in Dallas. We know all about the 5 Lombardi Trophies and the finest Stadium that money can buy. We have been told about the Forbes value and the largest fan base this side of Manchester United.

That is all very impressive.

But, what about the problems with all of the false starts? Why is it so difficult to get a pass rush on crucial downs? And how come it is impossible for a veteran to lose his spot in the lineup no matter how bad he is? (Question: name the last veteran starter to lose his job due to poor performance - Besides Nick Folk last year, I think it might be Drew Bledsoe, 2006, Bill Parcells).

This is the type of embarrassing loss that might get Jerry to 2nd guess his Jason Garrett ideas. I think it is silly for us to assume what is going through his head right now. He owes it to himself and to the franchise to pursue any and all ideas and hire the coach who he believes can fix the damage that has been done.

But, make no mistake. Plenty of damage has been done to the way this team has done business. I admire Garrett trying to change the culture during the season, but that is like trying to turn an ocean liner around in a canal. Not easily done.

On the surface, the Cowboys look like they have plenty of good elements on paper. But, we learned again last night in Arizona, that the devil is in the little details with this team.

And until they get those little details squared away, we are going to see more inexcusable losses like the one we saw last night.


gary turner said...

I cringe every time a Dallas kicker comes on the field ever since Parcells decided a kicking coach was redundant. Jones should offer Steve Hoffman whatever he wants in order to get him back to Dallas.

Hoffman may not want to give up his special teams coaching gig at KC, but, hell, offer him DeCamillis's job. Special teams haven't been a particularly bright spot the last several years, and having Hoffman coaching the kickers and punters would mean a terrific improvement.



osnfl said...

Never have Jerry's shortfalls as a GM been more obvious than this season. If he is "mad as hell," as he put it in his post-game press conference, then he should take it out on himself.

I have NO faith that Jerry will do the right thing, which is hire Garrett and permit Jason to surround himself with great coaches and players. If rumors out of Miami are true, Sparano and Nolan will be available this off-season: there is your OC and DC for the 2011 edition of the Dallas Cowboys.

But here is where Jerry's lack of knowledge in regards to personnel and football provide the downfall for the Cowboys organization. Look at the following list:

New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers
Philadelphia Eagles
Baltimore Ravens
Indianapolis Colts

Every one of those teams conducts business in a very similar way, and has long-standing success in the NFL as a result. Those teams do not hire coaches or draft players to sell-out the stadium or improve TV revenues. Those teams hire a coach and permit him to grow and build the type of team he wants.

Those teams also have sharp football guys as GM's that understand personnel. Where was Jerry the GM when the following occurred this off-season?

- The offensive line was kept in-tact, despite getting overrun in the playoff loss at Minnesota.

- The slow, old linebackers from 2009 were kept in place, despite being slower and older.

- The team decided that having three defensive ends on the team in contract years would somehow elevate their poor play in 2010.

- The safety position was grossly misevaluated.

- The starting running back's diminishing results in games was overlooked heading into 2010.

It goes on and on. I remember Jerry saying that Wade was one of the greatest talent evaluators that he had ever known.

Really? Makes me dread the draft all that much more...

If Jerry was a better talent evaluator, he could diagnose problems on his own, and not rely on the eye of a head coach that has never had success at any other stop in his 35 year career in the NFL. If Jerry was a better GM, he could see that the modern version of the NFL is about stability from the top down, not flash and glitz.

Garrett took a third-string quarterback that had never taken a regular season snap, and came back from an eighteen point deficit away from home. Jason seems more and more like the next Sean Payton...which means that he will be winning a Super Bowl for another team in the not too distant future.